Thursday, September 06, 2012

European Court Interprets When EU Country Must Grant Asylum For Religious Persecution

In Bundesrepublik Deutschland v Y and Z, (EU Ct. Justice, Sept. 5, 2012), the Court of Justice of the European Union interpreted the EU's directive on the status of refugees in the case of two Pakistani members of the Ahmadiyya community who are seeking asylum in Germany.  As summarized by the Court's press release::
The Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court,  Germany), before which the disputes have been brought, asks the Court of Justice to specify what restrictions on the practice of a religion may be considered as persecution justifying the grant of refugee status.

In today’s judgment, the Court finds, first, that only certain forms of severe interference with the right to freedom of religion, and not any interference with that right, may constitute an act of persecution requiring the competent authorities to grant refugee status....

... [A]cts which may constitute a severe violation include serious acts which interfere with a person’s freedom not only to practice his faith in private circles but also to live that faith publicly.... [A] violation of the right to freedom of religion may constitute persecution where, because of the exercise of that liberty in his country of origin, there is a genuine risk that the asylum applicant will ... be prosecuted or subject to inhumane or degrading punishment.... [W]here the participation in formal worship... may give rise to such a risk, the violation of the right to freedom of religion may be sufficiently serious.

...[T]he protection afforded on the basis of persecution on religious grounds extends both to forms of personal or communal conduct which the person concerned considers to be necessary to him ... and to those prescribed by religious doctrine....

Finally ... where it is established that, upon his return to  his country of origin, the person concerned will engage in a religious practice which will expose him to a real risk of persecution, he should be granted refugee status.... [I]n assessing an application for refugee status on an individual basis, the national authorities cannot reasonably expect the applicant to abstain from the manifestation or practice of certain religious acts.
Deutsche Welle reports on the decision.

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